How Manufacturers Shift to Just-In-Time Production

Aug 18, 2022 5:00:00 PM / by PlantStar Team


In the past, manufacturing processes were inefficient. Suppliers produced large quantities of products and then stored them until they were sold. Such an approach is no longer feasible in today’s marketplace where companies try to squeeze as many inefficiencies out of their production runs as possible. In response, manufacturers are shifting to Just-In-Time (JIT) production, where they produce goods as they are needed.

 Like lean manufacturing, JIT is a manufacturing efficiency methodology whose goal is to reduce the frequency and time that materials and personnel spend sitting idle somewhere in the supply chain or the manufacturing process. The idle time causes delays, drives up expenses, creates inefficiencies, and reduces customer satisfaction. JIT’s ultimate goal is to have materials and manpower arrive right when they are needed in the supply chain or on the plant floor.

Digitize the Manufacturing Process  

To implement JIT concepts, corporations need clear visibility into their materials, strong supply chain management, and an understanding of their manufacturing processes. To attain them, many companies need to move from legacy solutions, like spreadsheets and paper, to data entry done with modern solutions. In essence, they need to digitize their existing supply chain and manufacturing processes by adopting technologies, like cloud and mobile devices. Only then will real-time data be available in a format where it can be easily shared.

Yet, another potential hurdle arises. Most companies store data in a variety of different applications that each house information in their own unique way. As manufacturing processes unfold, tasks are completed at multiple locations, by multiple devices, and overseen by multiple individuals. Consequently, information cannot easily flow from one system to another. Manufacturing workers often spend a great deal of time collecting and correlating information from the different systems to understand how work flows.

To address that limitation, they must deploy a central system that holds all of their information. A Manufacturing Execution System, like Syscon’s PlantStar, which supports production monitoring and process monitoring, does that job. The MES software becomes the central repository for tracking customer orders, monitoring material flow, and releasing orders to the appropriate manufacturing cells. In addition, the MES solution monitors inventory levels and generates alerts whenever supplies run low. Finally, a MES can monitor production progress and identify potential bottlenecks. In essence, the MES provides the visibility needed to support real-time JIT manufacturing systems.

Automate Manual Processes

With the new capabilities, suppliers next can change their workflows and automate more functions. Manufacturing’s reliance on manual processes has been a prime reason for its inefficiencies. Humans process only so much information, work at a set pace, and make mistakes.

Automation enables suppliers to replace their input with computer-generated responses and streamline business processes. For example, PlantStar 4.0 generates an alert whenever a problem, such as robot malfunctioning or materials missing their shipment date, arises. Users easily customize their alerts and receiving methods.  They can receive email, text, or voice alerts concerning the status of any shop-floor machine and process. Consequently, they make needed adjustments and keep JIT schedules on track as much as possible.

Avoid Rush Orders

Rush orders are a supply chain risk, one that has a negative impact on the business’ overall performance. Avoiding rush orders not only minimizes the possibility of production delays, but it also prevents ordering materials at the last minute, requesting expedited deliveries, and incurring additional charges.

With JIT, manufacturers reorder from suppliers as inventory falls to predetermined levels. Satisfying customers by delivering demands at an agreed time leads customers to trust in a company and its ability to meet its commitments.

Improve Inventory Turn and Material Usage

JIT manufacturing invokes a Goldilocks approach to supply chain and manufacturing processes, not too much or too little, but just right. With an MES system, corporations gain access to real-time workflow information. With such insights, they better manage their raw materials. If new orders arise, they request more. If a snafu slows production, they immediately inform their suppliers and change the order. They no longer find themselves flummoxed with production over-runs or under-runs. As a result, they maximize material usage and inventory turns.

Several benefits emerge with a JIT approach.

  • First, it reduces the amount of excess inventory that a company keeps on hand, and reduced inventory lowers overhead and costs.
  • Second, it eliminates the need for storage space for finished products.
  • Third, it lowers the risk of products becoming obsolete before they are sold.
  • Fourth, quality control improves because corporations gain more insights into the manufacturing process.
  • Fifth, just-in-time production improves a company’s cash flow because products are shipped and invoices are generated to customers as soon as they are produced.
  • Finally, this approach leads to better quality control because products do not sit in warehouses for long periods of time.

Traditionally, suppliers have been weighed down by inefficient manual processes. The emergence of new digital technology and MES solutions empower them to work more efficiently. These emerging capabilities mesh with the JIT model. Implementing the two enables manufacturing companies to reduce idle time, reduce costs, and create stronger businesses.


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